Allow me to make several introductory remarks regarding this “review.” First, it’s not going to really be a critical review in the sense of evaluation because I simply am totally out of my league here. My theological training did not include a lot of work related to counseling… just the basic MDiv equivalent. Second, I am not familiar enough with the different perspectives related to the subject of Christian counseling to recognize the weaknesses and strengths of differing views. Readers interested in studying that subject may be interested to reading either Psychology & Christianity: Four Views or Perspectives on Family Ministry: Three Views. Third, because of these issues, this review will largely be related to what I thought of the book as a literary contribution.
The Biblical Counseling Movement After Adams is written by Heath Lambert (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary). As this is based on his PhD dissertation, the reading is not necessarily poplar level, though I’m quite sure it does not retain as much of the technical jargon, and if so, it defines it. Regardless of the level of writing, it flows well and transitions forward at a pleasant pace.
First, the book provides an evaluation of Jay E. Adams. Adams essentially spearheaded the “biblical counseling” movement in the 20th century. As a decidedly Reformed Christian, Adams has been extremely influential in the circles associated with Reformed Theological Seminary and specifically Westminster Theological Seminary, where he was a professor. It’s obvious that Adams was the primary person that got nouthetic counseling (pastoral counseling based on Scripture alone that largely addresses the sin problem) off the ground. Lambert seems to both honor Adams and yet also have significant criticisms of his work. Second, The Biblical Counseling Movement takes a look at what Lambert calls “advances” since Adams essentially retired. These advances include how biblical counselors think about counseling, how they do counseling, how they talk about counseling, and how they think about the Bible. Lastly, a prominent person who seems to have emerged after Adams, in this movement, is David Powlison. I really enjoy reading Powlison… and can see how he’s shaped the current movement.
At any rate, whether these are actual advances, only those aware of the issues will know. It would seem that one would have to have a significant understanding of Adams’ work to be able to understand if Lambert has indeed seen advances, or if Adams is simply being misrepresented. As I’ve done some minimal reading of Adams and those who differed with him, I’ve noticed that he is at times misrepresented… or at least misunderstood.
At any rate, this book is a good read. Whether the content is worthy of praise in relation to contributing and critiquing and advancing the biblical counseling movement, others will have to comment. That being said, I learned a lot. The final chapter, “An Area Still in Need of Advancement” was intriguing. Earlier in the book (chap. 2), Lambert offered ways that he believed the movement had advanced regarding human motivation. This is related to what is often referred to by those in this stream of biblical counseling as “idols of the heart.” Readers who are familiar with David Powlison will recognize that concept from most of his writings. Lambert spends the rest of the chapter examining how idolatry is a secondary problem related to a primary problem – “the sinful, self-exalting heart” (p. 139).
Overall I enjoyed the book. I wish I understood more of it’s concepts and could critically evaluate it more, but the theories are simply too foreign to me. That being said, the biblical engagement was helpful and I think pretty sound. There may be differences here and there over exegetical conclusions, but for the most part, this is a significantly worthwhile read.
If you are interested in pastoral counseling or the biblical counseling movement, you’ll want to check this book out.
Luke is a pastor-theologian living in northern California, serving as a co-lead pastor with his life, Dawn, at the Red Bluff Vineyard. Father of five amazing kids, when Luke isn’t hanging with his family, reading or writing theology, he moonlights as a fly fishing guide for Confluence Outfitters. He blogs regularly at LukeGeraty.com and regularly contributes to his YouTube channel.